As the first of Westerner Park’s fall events is postponed due to new provincial pandemic restrictions, the CEO says “it’s so tough” to know what the future holds.
Westerner Park’s CEO Mike Olesen said Agritrade, the Canadian Finals Rodeo and Red Deer Rebels hockey games are still set to go — although the Alberta Food and Beverage Expo was postponed to next spring instead of running on Sept. 18.
“Obviously, masks must now be worn and we must manage (with event organizers) that those attending the shows are in compliance,” said Olesen on Wednesday.
Other than ensuring there’s compliance with this rule, and providing Westerner Park patrons with disinfectant and distancing reminders, there’s not much else that can be done at this point, said Olesen.
But if COVID-19 cases grow and the province brings back capacity limits on indoor events, that would be a whole different story. Event organizers would then have to determine the financial feasibility of their shows going ahead, said Olesen.
Even the provincial masking rule made it hard for organizers of the Food and Beverage Expo to retain that show’s format.
Unless people are seated while eating, masks must be worn. And Olesen said this does not jibe with the show’s focus on allowing patrons to try different foods and drinks while mingling. As a result, the show was postponed to April 2022.
Similar event cancellations in 2020 and the start of 2021 led to Westerner Park’s finances taking a big hit.
Olesen anticipates that most events scheduled for this fall can still go ahead. A long lineup includes the Home Show, Oktoberfest and the Rock and Gem show.
But he’s admittedly more cautious than before the provincial government brought back the indoor masking policy on Friday. “It certainly increases our tolerance for risk…”
Part of Premier Jason Kenney’s announcement was that alcohol sales would be cut off at 10 p.m. This rule could cause certain events to be reassessed, said Olesen — for instance, if a concert was starting at 10 p.m., the lack of alcohol proceeds would have to be factored in.
“Who knows what further changes will bring? It’s so tough, so difficult to know,” he added. “Anytime there’s one change… it heightens our awareness and our planning.”